Looking behind the #IndyCar viewership numbers.

When I read NBS Sports Network’s release about the huge jumps in televisi0on viewers for IndyCar in 2014, I immediately thought of the old saying that goes: “There are liars, damn liars, and then there are statistics.”

The release trumpeted how IndyCar delivered its second best audience since 2009 and it averaged 378,000 viewers this year, which was up 34 per cent over last season, according to data provided by The Nielsen Company.

Six races, it added were up 50 per cent over last year. See chart below.

Now it all sounds terrific, but when you look at the actual audience numbers, it tells a different story. The series is averaging less than 400,000 viewers per race, that’s roughly 10 per cent of the number NASCAR gets on a really bad night.

In all, NBCSN’s coverage reached 4.356 million viewers in 2014, up 26% from the total audience of 3.456 million viewers last year. The best year on NBCSN or its predecessor Versus was 4.789 million in 2011.

When you consider that NASCAR on Fox will probably average somewhere around 7 million per race this year, it’s clear that IndyCar has a long way to go. Even Formula One and its niche following in the U.S. was up 18 per cent last year with 11.4 million tuning in.

The bottom line here is that you can shout from a mountaintop all you want that the audience is up by one-third, but when you only have a few watching every race, having a few more really isn’t getting you anywhere.

Race 2014 Viewers 2013 Viewers Change
Toronto 2 484,000 258,000 88%
Iowa 444,000 253,000* 75%
Texas 424,000 383,000* 10%
Barber 400,000 253,000 58%
Houston 2 396,000 161,000 144%
Mid-Ohio 386,000 195,000 98%

(*denotes 2012 viewership; no comparison for 2013)

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